Life beyond (perhaps temporarily) Block Island

Graduates look back, and ahead
Sun, 08/06/2017 - 7:30am

Adjusting to life after graduating from high school can be a challenge for most young adults as they transition from a familiar existence to one that is foreign to them. The Block Island Times spoke with some members from the 2016 graduating class, who shared their insights and thoughts about making the adjustment to life after departing from the Block Island School.

Richie Conant, who completed his freshman year at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he is majoring in business, said, “It was a totally different experience that definitely took some getting used to. Growing up on the island, everyone knows who you are and what type of person you might be and vice versa. That first year away from the island, sometimes you forget that these new people know absolutely nothing about you.”

Reva van Lent, who did not go away to attend college her first year, said, “I believe I transitioned fairly well, with the support of my friends and family. I traveled and then moved to work in Connecticut for the winter months.” 

Jameson Brown-Padien, attending Washington College in Maryland, where he is majoring in Sports Psychology, said, “To be honest, the transition wasn't bad at all. It actually was refreshing, like a fresh start. I had lots of homework, but I was having such a great time making new friends and playing baseball. It was fun.”

Ryan McGarry, who is majoring in business at the University of Rhode Island, said, “It was definitely a different feeling to me; something I’ve never felt. I had a longing to be back at the place where I grew up.” 

Their thoughts

Conant said that the biggest adjustment after graduating was, “being away from my friends and family, who I was so used to seeing every day. I also found myself forgetting that I wasn’t on a secluded island anymore, and going to the movies wasn’t a full-day event.”

“Having to drive off-island was a big adjustment for me, and so was making sure I made enough money to be able to afford to feed myself,” said van Lent. 

McGarry said his biggest adjustment was “not knowing many people at first. I come from a place where I know everyone, and everyone knows me. So that was a weird feeling.”

“The biggest adjustment for me was not having to account for the one-hour ferry commute,” said Padien. “Life in Chestertown, MD, has many similarities to Block Island, which probably contributed to my easy transition.”

Padien noted that he didn’t really get homesick while being away at school. “There were times when I would be talking to my parents on the phone and I would get caught up in some sort of local news or keeping up with my sister’s basketball games. Other than that, I was too busy to have time for most of that stuff.”

“I was at URI, so if I ever really wanted to just go home, I would,” said McGarry. 

Conant said that although he missed his family and friends on Block Island, technology allowed him to stay in touch. “There were definitely times when I missed that security of the Block Island lifestyle. Luckily, technology has made it very easy to hang out with friends and family even when we’re hundreds of miles apart.”

Van Lent said that life after graduating is “hard, really hard. You have a lot more opportunities if you're not afraid to take them, but you lack the sense of support and community you have here on the island.” 

“I didn't feel quite as prepared as I would have liked to be,” added van Lent. “I am not saying that the Block Island School didn't do a phenomenal job at helping its students prepare for their next season of life, but as a student that was not going to college I did feel less prepared than my classmates.”

“The thing I appreciate the most since I have graduated, is my ability to adapt,” said Padien. “I feel I can understand and relate to a wide range of personalities, because of the environment I grew up around, in high school; my classmates and I were all very different, and yet we somehow all got along.”

“You pretty much have a clean slate once you graduate and move on from the Block Island School, so go be who you want to be and do whatever you want to do,” said Conant. “Just remember your roots and all those close relationships you built with your Block Island family.”

McGarry noted that, “Life really does start to fly by” after graduating. “So enjoying, or at least trying to enjoy, every occasion is my biggest goal.” 

As for the future, Conant said, “I hope to be working in a major city like Boston where I can visit the island easily. I can definitely see my family coming to the island for summers in the future.”

“Only time will tell,” said McGarry. “I don’t want to rule anything out. I feel like people see ending up on Block Island as a bad thing. I disagree, but don’t want to limit my opportunities.”

Van Lent said, “I do believe I will work and live on the mainland for most of my life. However, I would love to come out to the island during the summer as often as I can.” 

Padien said, “It’s hard to say what I'll be doing four or five years from now, but I can say with some certainty that I will return to live on the island someday. It may not be until I'm old and retired, but someday.”